Drinking from Poetry’s Well

October 10-12, 2023

Purchase Tickets to “An Evening with David Whyte”

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Full Conference Registration – Virtual and In-person
Rates & Policies

A virtual version of the full conference is available for $75, which includes three plenary sessions.

When we allow ourselves to search for common ground rather than being overly focused upon our differences as humans traveling on this island home trying to make sense of the journey, we find amazing pathways to freedom and wellness.

The 2023 Lansing Lee Conference welcomes two major thought leaders, Poet/Philosopher, David Whyte and Racial Healing, Wellness Advocate, and Mid-Wife to the Soul, Dr. Catherine Meeks. Both will share from the rich well of experience that has taught them about freedom and well-being. The Rev. Winnie Varghese will serve as chaplain.

All-inclusive rates range from $438-$638 depending on your lodging selection.
See drop-down for details, financial assistance, and payment plans.

“Drinking from Poetry’s Well: The Search for Freedom, Hope, and Healing” invites us to begin an inner soul journey leading to sustainable life and peace.

In our time together, Meeks and Whyte will share from their understanding of the meaning of this inner soul journey for themselves, with the hope and intention of encouraging participants to continue or reimagine the way forward as pilgrims on such a journey.

The lives of Whyte, an Irish/English male and Meeks, an African American female, began thousands of miles apart; however they have happily found that much of their way of thinking and being in the world intersects beautifully. Whyte has been a mentor to Meeks for more than two decades. Upon finally meeting, they realized their kinship as fellow human beings was greater than their physical and cultural differences.

Since early childhood, Meeks and Whyte have each been on soul journeys that—while staying present to their souls—have profoundly revealed and affirmed the necessity of discerning which paths lead to becoming more human.

This work is universal and defies all artificial boundaries constructed around race, class, gender, physical ability or inability, age, or intellectual ability, because the soul is not bound by such limitations. It is this universal search—guided by the heart’s hunger to be free—that has led Whyte and Meeks across many mountains, rivers, and valleys to this place of commonality defying the bondage of boundaries and demanding freedom’s release.

Though each is aware of and can celebrate their physical and cultural specificities, both have been open to the inner journey of exploring questions, fears, hopes, joys, defeats and all other invitations to seek truth. Identifying with one’s cultural narrative alone is insufficient to support the soul’s quest, and we must welcome the truth when it knocks on the soul’s door.

Dr. Catherine Meeks is Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. A sought-after teacher and workshop leader, Dr. Meeks brings four decades of experience in working to dismantle racism. The core of her work has been with people who have been marginalized because of economic status, race, gender or physical ability as they pursue liberation, justice and access to resources that can help lead them to health, wellness and a more abundant life.

Poet and writer David Whyte makes his home in the Pacific Northwest, where rain and changeable skies remind him of the other, more distant homes from which he comes: Yorkshire, Wales and Ireland. He has traveled extensively, including working as a guide in the Galapagos and leading trips into the Himalaya; much of his work chronicles a close relationship to landscapes and histories. He speaks to the suffering and joy that accompany revelation, and the necessity of belonging to families, people and places.

A national leader in The Episcopal Church, The Rev. Winnie Varghese is known for her inspired writing, teaching, and preaching. Before her current position as the 23rd rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, she served as Priest for Ministry and Program Coordination at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City.

The event includes intentionally designed space for respite, contemplation, prayer, and holy listening.

Facilitators will lead “tracks” following each presentation, inviting participants to process together through art, conversation, music, nature immersion, and creative writing.

The Lansing Lee Conference honors the memory of Lansing B. Lee, Jr. of Augusta, Georgia and is made possible through an endowment established by Natalie Lee with major support from the Buford L. Bowen endowment.

Dr. Jeanette Banashak

The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute

Nature Immersion & Forest Bathing Facilitator

Dr. Jeanette Banashak is a queer and bilingual interspiritual and interreligious companion with a diploma in shinrin yoku (forest bathing). She is deeply committed to the work of integrating life and justice into nature immersion experiences. Jeanette is the co-founder/director of The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute (spiritualguidancetraining.com) and author of The Mindful Pilgrimage: A 40-Day Pocket Devotional for Pilgrims of Any Faith or None. She teaches social and emotional learning and child development at Erikson Institute and spiritual direction at the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Rev. Simon de Voil

Sacred Musician

Conference Musician

Simon Ruth de Voil offers songs and storytelling as part of our shared activities, including during the session with David Whyte and Dr. Catherine Meeks and for interfaith worship and song.

Simon is an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister trained to be a facilitator of ancient and modern musical expression. As a sacred musician, spiritual mentor and worship leader, he incorporates chant, ritual, poetry, storytelling, and mindful practice to create a space for profound connection and sacred witness. Simon is an experienced workshop and retreat leader, drawing on 15 years of study, training, and practice that grew from his time living and working in Iona Abbey. https://simondevoil.com

Dr. Claire Colombo

Seminary of the Southwest

Somatic Creative Writing Facilitator

Claire is assistant professor of writing, theology, and the arts at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, where she also directs the Center for Writing and the Arts. As an Enneagram 4, she harbors—along with many writers of the world—a deep anxiety about writing, even as she finds the act of writing one of her deepest joys. She is passionate about the connection between body, spirit, imagination, and pen (or keyboard), and is at work on projects that take up these connections in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and in our theological understandings of creativity.

Connie Matisse

Formerly of East Fork Pottery (founder)

Conversation Facilitator

Connie Matisse (she/her) is the co-founder of East Fork, a ceramics manufacturing company in Asheville, North Carolina. Alongside her husband, Alex Matisse, she served first as East Fork’s CMO and then as its CEO. In early 2023 she stepped away from the organization to take time to center, rest, and reconnect with her six- and eight-year-old daughters, while inviting conversations around alternatives to capitalism, de-industrialization, violence caused by systemic injustice, and serious challenges facing young people.

“We can have all the big, important, groundbreaking ideas about affecting positive change we want, but until we allow those ideas to be seen, reflected, analyzed, and challenged, they’re quick to fizzle out. In this track we’ll come together in small circles to converse with one another. We’ll share emerging thoughts that bubble up throughout our time together; we’ll practice deep listening and receiving; and we’ll reflect on our patterned way of showing up in conversation spaces, and consider how our patterned behavior supports or undermines our ability to alchemize and integrate new experiences and information.”

Ginger Huebner

Artist & Educator

Create + Connect Art Experience Facilitator

Ginger is a visual artist, art educator, and creative facilitator. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and a MAT in Visual Arts from the University of the Arts. Her mixed media work uses found imagery and chalk pastel to create works that are visual translations capturing feelings and emotions that transcend verbal expression. She is the founding director of Roots + Wings School of Art and Design in Asheville (2009-2023) and The Roots + Wings Creative Institute. She is an A+ School of NC Apprentice Fellow, helping schools across the state integrate creativity and collaboration in all aspects of their teams, and serves as Visual Art Advisor to PBS for the ‘Pinkalicious’ series, the PBS’ Online Learning platform and the PBS Arts Curriculum development. Her TEDx Talk “Conversations Beyond Words-Translating life through imagery & color” distills her work in cultivating authentic connection through creativity.


Become immersed in Ginger’s Create + Connect process, which will lead us into deep and meaningful conversations BEYOND WORDS—creating unique mixed media visual translations through collage and chalk pastel. We will reflect and process the gift of new ways of seeing, listening, and surrendering to the power of time and space with such amazing people, beautiful surroundings, and rich connections. No first-hand artistic talent is necessary; the process leads the way to incredible works every single time.

Kanuga is making it a priority to increase accessibility to our programs.

Attendance cost is calculated during online registration, depending on your lodging selection. Apply for need-based financial assistance during checkout, and note that payment plans are available.

Rates & Policies


Choose from a guest house, historic cottage or a room in Kanuga Lake Inn.

Check out photos of each type of lodging here.

We observe quiet hours from 11 p.m.-7 a.m.

Meals are included in the program fee. We serve three meals a day, buffet-style in our dining room. Please let us know of any food allergies when completing your online registration.

  • Breakfast: 7:30-9 a.m.
  • Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Supper: 5:30-7 p.m.

For the health and safety of our beloved community, Kanuga maintains high standards for food service, sanitation, and general cleanliness. All guests must be symptom-free from any communicable disease prior to arrival. Wearing masks is not required but welcomed by all, especially those at high risk or not up to date on vaccinations, or for 5 days after recovering from illness. Please visit this page for information specific to COVID in Henderson County.

In our shop, located next to the Main Lodge, you’ll find soft drinks, wine and beer, snacks, books, apparel, and necessities. 

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During your stay, we hope you can make time to explore Kanuga’s hiking trails, wooded walks, and lakes. The indoor gym includes workout and weight rooms, as well as a basketball court.

There are myriad worship and contemplation spaces at Kanuga in which all are welcome, including the indoor Chapel of The Transfiguration and the Labyrinth and St. Francis Chapel outdoors.

If you are attending an event at Kanuga and would like to share your photos with our online community, please tag us: #kanuga @kanugaepiscopal. Drone photography is not permitted by guests.

Check-in: 4 p.m.

The conference concludes with lunch on October 12.

Certified service animals are welcome at Kanuga in certain lodging areas.

Support Kanuga

If you are able to further support Kanuga’s retreats, conferences, and camps, please consider an annual fund gift. Kanuga is a non-profit organization affiliated with but not funded by The Episcopal Church. Gifts of any amount are welcome and appreciated.

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